Sunday, August 6, 2017
Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
In many ways, Detroit marks the third in a trilogy of films between director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, starting with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Each film examines a period of history using Bigelow's established roots as an action director to make politically charged films with a constant sense of energy, examining the power dynamics in typically scary "combat" situations where traditional rules no longer apply. She also often delves into researched details that aren't typically covered on the evening news. With Detroit, Bigelow is examining the pressure-cooker situation of the Detroit riots, a shameful and often overlooked moment in US history, and marks Bigelow's most hard-hitting (literally) and visceral film to date - made prescient by the fact that its depictions of injustice, prejudice, and police brutality seem like they've been ripped from today's headlines.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
War for the Planet of the Apes
Dir. Matt Reeves
The original Planet of the Apes from 1968 is one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, and one of the reasons its outlandish premise - filled with spaceships and talking apes - rose above the status of b-movie dreck was due to its ingenious and groundbreaking use of special make-up effects. It is, in fact, the reason the make-up category exists at the Oscars. 40+ years later in 2011, the beloved series is rebooted with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, itself spawning two sequels, and reinvents the wheel again, doing for motion capture technology what the original did for practical make-up effects. War for the Planet of the Apes is not only an emotional journey and a satisfying end to a trilogy, but also testament to how technology and CGI effects can simultaneously add summer blockbuster spectacle to a film and add rich layers of emotional resonance and humanity, helping to create actual, real performances. If this third film doesn't finally earn this series an Oscar for visual effects, something must be rigged!
Friday, July 14, 2017
Dir. Jon Watts
In the past ten years alone, we've seen three different Spider-Men sling their webs all over the silver screen. If any character is deserving of "sequel" fatigue, it's everyone's favorite web-head. However, the five previous Spider-Man films have been produced by Sony, whereas Spider-Man: Homecoming is the result of a unique and astonishing deal between Sony (who technically owns Spider-Man) and Marvel Studios. Sony "loaned" the character out to be creatively handled by the masterminds at Marvel, while Sony took marketing duties. This partnership allowed Spidey to enter the world of the Avengers, and it's this concept that elevates Homecoming from being yet another re-hashed origin story to something we've never seen from this character before. There's no Uncle Ben, no J. Jonah Jameson, no Mary Jane Watson - but despite these absences, Homecoming fully understands its characters and sets its story within a unique, John Hughes-inspired high school comedy world, making what could easily have been the most rote movie of the year into a fun blockbuster that somehow doesn't feel as if dozens of worried executives feverishly tinkered with it.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Transformers: The Last Knight
Dir. Michael Bay
NOTE: This review features spoilers! Ye have been warned!
They say "practice makes perfect," so by now, after FIVE movies in the Transformers franchise, you'd think action junkie and explosion enthusiast Michael Bay would be able to craft some kind of coherent story. You'd think. Similar to his other four mega-blockbuster CGI extravaganzas, The Last Knight does not feel like the four credited screenwriters had any real kind of master plan with this movie - yet again it feels like an ADHD-addled 12 year old mashing around his giant, million-dollar robot toys. There are so many ideas, characters, and subplots jammed into this movie that it defies any kind of clear and logical summary. That being said, The Last Knight at least escapes the soul-crushing blandness of Universal's recent The Mummy, featuring wall-to-wall, undiluted Bayhem every step of the way, for better or worse.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Dir. Patty Jenkins
A lot was riding on Wonder Woman's shoulders. For Warner Brothers it represented a major investment; it had to recoup its large (but not extravagant) blockbuster production budget of $150 million, it had to introduce a new character that's planned to be prominently featured in sequels and the upcoming Justice League, it had to reignite the flame for the DC Cinematic Universe, struggling to connect with critics and audiences after Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, it had to prove to Hollywood gatekeepers that both a major female-led and female-directed superhero movie could prove profitable (if this failed, I loathe to think the "lessons" big wig producers would've taken away), and last but not least, it had to live up to the expectations for those Wonder Woman fans who've waited their entire lives for this flick. Unbelievably - I think Wonder Woman accomplishes all of these things and then some.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
I can't tell if this is impressive or pathetic, but today marks the tenth straight year since I began reviewing movies! Three cheers for endurance! While I started using this Blogger site in 2011, I'd been reviewing long before then, blindly posting and submitting movie reviews here and there until I finally made the "no duh" decision to make my own blog.
My first-ever review was for the family-friendly romp Hostel: Part II, which I originally posted to my MySpace "blog" page on June 11, 2007 (I gave it a 'B,' and by golly, I stick by it). Although MySpace has come and gone, my love of movies - and writing about them - has not. For some strange reason, I feel it's my duty to continue writing about movies and keep 'Talking the Talkies' up and running, even though I'm not paid to do so in any capacity. In fact it costs me money to see the movies, so this is a true labor of love.
I sincerely thank you all for reading my blog - whether this post is the first one you've ever read or if you've been a long-time reader, it truly means a lot that you care enough to peruse through the work I've done. And thanks to all the random people who've thrown a compliment my way over the years - it can sometimes be tough to get a handle on what people think of this blog, and your supportive words have been encouraging. I hope that even if you don't agree with my opinions or ratings, you've found at least some enjoyment reading my thoughts and maybe learning about some movies you might otherwise not have been exposed to.
10 years is kind of a big milestone, so to celebrate the past decade of film, I've compiled ten movie-related "awards" to shine a light on some of my favorite movies and movie-people through the years. I limited the winners exclusively to the time between when I started writing reviews until now (2007-2017), which was still no easy task. Also, it's interesting to re-visit some of my picks, seeing as some movies have definitely grown on me over the years. So, without further ado, here are the 10th-Straight-Year-of-Reviewing Awards!
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Dir. Ridley Scott
The thing that irks me the most about Disney's recent Star Wars films are their over-reliance on familiar imagery and plot lines from the original trilogy. With Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott falls into the same trap of making a complete concession to fans with his own franchise. Prometheus, 2012's Alien prequel co-scripted by Lost scribe Damon Lindelof, was in my opinion a fantastic, intense, original take on the "Alien" mythology, but it came under fire from Slurpee-scarfing mouth-breathers online for not having the same exact creatures as the original 1979 movie and attempting to make something new and original. Well, I hope they're happy now, because in Alien: Covenant Scott pretty much gives those whiny basement-dwellers exactly what they asked for: an Alien retread with the same old aliens as before that bends over backwards to retcon most of the interesting, ambitious philosophical concepts introduced in Prometheus. To many, Alien: Covenant will be an "improvement" over its predecessor due to its stripped-down, back-to-basics quality, but to me this was just a disappointingly empty rehash of old ideas.